Man accused of setting Auburn oak tree on fire pleads guilty - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Man accused of setting Auburn oak tree on fire pleads guilty

Jochen Wiest, 29 (Source: Auburn Police Department) Jochen Wiest, 29 (Source: Auburn Police Department)

AUBURN, AL (WTVM) - The man who set the Toomer's Oak on fire after the LSU game plead guilty in court on Thursday and has been sentenced.

Jocen Weist, 29, pled guilty Thursday to felony criminal mischief.

He also apologized for setting fire to toilet paper draping the Toomer's Oak as Auburn fans celebrated their victory over LSU in September 2016.

Weist, who is originally from Germany, was given a three-year suspended sentence, so he will not go to jail, followed by five years’ probation.

He's also paid around $26,000 in court costs, fines and restitution. The amount includes $20,807, the estimated value of the oak if it needs to be replaced.

"I think he was sincere in his apology, I don't hear a lot of apologies in court," said Lee County Assistant District Attorney Jessica Ventiere.

Prosecutors say while the fire put people in danger, Weist's actions were very different from Alabama fan Harvey Updyke, who intentionally poisoned and killed both Toomer's Oaks.

"The only thing I can say that comparing Updyke and Weist is even greater than apples and oranges, you are talking apples and unicorns,” Ventiere said. “Updyke was malice and did it on purpose. Mr. Weist is from Germany and didn't understand what he was doing, was very intoxicated at the time, and he has from the very beginning been accepting responsibility for it and trying to make it right."           

Weist plans to return to Germany as soon as possible, and is banned from Auburn University’s campus.

Auburn University issued a statement, saying their goal is returning the rolling tradition to the Auburn family.

The plea allows Auburn to move forward with funds to replace the tree, and we are told an official decision has not yet been made. 

RELATED: Judge denies Auburn tree fire suspect's request to return to Germany?

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